The Consequences of Overtourism | How Overtourism is Hurting the Earth

Updated: May 18, 2020

If you'd like to watch a video instead of read, be sure to check out this video.

Before we get started, I don’t mean you have to rough it and go camping and stay off the grid and not actually do touristy things on your trip, rather, just avoid the crowds, avoid the overpopulated areas, and give the lesser known spots a chance. I got the inspiration for this video because this is how we love to travel and also I watched a video by Currently Hannah (channel linked below) about this topic. Her’s was specifically focused on Japan and over-tourism but I’m going to just focus on over-tourism everywhere.

I have seen stories of once quiet and pristine beaches being overrun with tourists. Now there is light and noise pollution, less nature, and way more garbage. This is happening in places like Bali, Iceland, Venice, Santorini, South Thailand, and even in my current home of Okinawa. Okinawa recently became the #1 tourist destination in the world. Hotels and resorts are popping up left and right and it is taking away from the beauty that people once traveled here to see.

This topic really hits home for me now that I live in one of these overtouristy places. I have gotten to witness the destruction of forests and degradation of beaches first hand. If you want to check out this video here, I talk about why COVID-19 is having a beneficial impact on the environment, largely due to the lack of tourism.

Overtourism is when there are too many tourists in one location and it makes traveling not as enjoyable and completely unsustainable in that area. A big one I’m sure everyone knows about is Venice.

Overtourism has a big impact on the environment. It leads to an increase in water consumption, air pollution, litter, and other waste in tourist destinations.

Overtourism can also have an adverse effect on the locals. Again, this is not normal amounts of tourism but overtourism. It can cause excess traffic, too much noise, the environmental impacts can impact these areas.

Tips in order to not contribute to overtourism:

  • Travel in off peak season

- An example would be cherry blossom season in Japan. A lot of people go to Kyoto or Tokyo during this time, but these cities are magnificent throughout the rest of the year as well.

- Don't chose big chain hotels and instead chose hostels or smaller hotels

- Check eco-ratings for hotels before deciding on one

  • Support local businesses instead of large chains

- Avoid souvenir shops when possible, but if you must buy something, chose a local artist or shop

- Avoid mass produced "fast fashion" items

- Even when eating food, avoid chains and try the local cuisine from a local chef

  • Be smart about your waste

- Pack light

- Bring your zero waste travel essentials (blog or video)

- Properly dispose of your trash

- Consume as little single-use as possible

- Carpool

- Take the bus

- Use the train/subway system

- Even boats, taxis, uber, and more

- Fly if you have to, but utilize public transportation when you get there

  • Be courteous to the locals and the environment

- Keep the noise down, noise pollution is a real threat to locals

- Pick up trash and dispose of it and your own waste properly

- Don't vandalize

- Stay on the paths

- Be nice, use manners

  • Visit lesser known areas

- Instead of visiting Tokyo or Kyoto, see Nara, Takayama, or Nikko

- Instead of visiting the mainland of Okinawa, visit the smaller (honestly more beautiful) outer lying islands like Tsuken, Ie, Ishigaki, and more

- You can still travel to a country in peak season (like cherry blossom season) but visit a lesser known area to avoid crowds and overtourism

- This is much more authentic and you get a real taste for what that country is like

  • Don’t geo-tag areas specifically

- This happened to a really lovely location here on Okinawa. It has become a victim of geo-tagging and overtourism which also lead to vandilization and it had to be shut down completely.

- You can still geo-tag places like "Osaka" but try to avoid tagging smaller locations within Kyoto to keep tourist numbers down (for more explanation, click here)

  • Follow the rules

- Stay on the paths

- Take off your shoes when they ask you to

- Don't go where they tell you not to go

- Don't litter

- Don't be loud

- This doesn't really combat overtourism but combats the consequences of overtourism

I want to specifically focus on one though…visit lesser known areas. Since overtourism brings about many threats to the environment which I will touch on in a later video, over spots that are affected by overtourism. Not only this, but you avoid the crowds, the risk of overpriced garbage, the risk the not being able to find an accommodation, and you get a more authentic experience.

Environmental impacts of overtourism:

- Cities with canals are flooding more often and the constant wake of the boats is causing buildings to erode quicker and eventually fall into the canal. We saw this a lot in Thailand.

- Decrease in coral life is happening right here in Okinawa. Warmer waters is making it harder for them to survive plus more and more tourists using non-reef friendly sunscreen is degrading their lives as well.

- Increase in single-use consumption/waste and increase in litter. More garbage litters these popular cities, trashcans are overflowing, and more waste enters our waterways

- Eroding of paths, trails, and more. More and more people walk on these paths every year (look at Machu Picchu for example) and that leads to them eroding quicker and quicker.

Sustainable tourism is that which boosts the local economy and helps it flourish rather than deteriorate. It allows for locals and tourists to live and travel comfortably without disturbing the local culture and atmosphere and without disturbing the environment. But, tourism has to be done correctly.

There is so much more history and culture when you travel off the beaten path. You get to experience the real parts of the country you are visiting and not the touristy, almost fake, destinations. Don't get me wrong, the cities are still great, but I have not loved anything more than the Japanese or Thai countryside. I love getting to see more of what life is really like and slow down for a change.

Thanks for reading!

Emma :)

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